JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes said Tuesday the carrier is sticking with its policy against overbooking flights, but that high bumping statistics resulted from reducing the size of planes on routes mostly before passengers arrive at the airport.
The general industry practice of overbooking – selling more seats than are available on flights, to cope with last-minute passenger cancellations – has drawn attention after United Airlines dragged a passenger off a flight April 9 to make room for a crew member. United has apologized, offered refunds to passengers on the flight and said it won’t ask police to remove overbooked passengers from flights any more.
Congress, the Transportation Department, United and the Chicago department are each investigating possible policy changes such as banning overbooking. But airlines have said overbooking and bumping should be part of the competition among carriers.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said recently that his company bumped only one passenger out of every 100,000 last year. That was less than one-fourth the rate of United, which denied boarding to 0.43 passengers out of every 10,000.
JetBlue has a policy against overbooking flights. Even so, JetBlue denied boarding to 0.92 passengers out of every 10,000 last year, according to the department.
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That figure meant 1,705 passengers agreed to take another flight and 3,176 were involuntarily bumped out of 34.7 million passengers last year, according to the department.
Hayes told investment analysts on a quarterly earnings call that JetBlue doesn’t oversell its flights. But the reported boarding denials resulted from switching from a larger plane to a smaller one, perhaps because of a mechanical problem.
JetBlue will be changing the way it swaps aircraft, but that it wasn’t something that passengers experienced at the airport, Hayes said.
“We are committed to our policy of not overselling flights,” Hayes said. “And our crew members have always been in power to make decisions in rare cases where we have to put someone on a flight.”
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